Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Foretold: The Golden Ass

Business once took me to Thessaly, where my mother’s family originated;  I have, by the way, the distinction of being descended through her from the famous Plutarch.  One morning after I had ridden over a high range of hills, down a slippery track into the valley beyond, across dewy pastures and soggy ploughland, my horse, a white Thessalian thoroughbred, began to puff and slacken his pace.  Feeling tired myself from sitting so long cramped in the saddle, I jumped off, carefully wiped his sweating forehead with a handful of leaves, stroked his ears, through the reins over his neck, and walked slowly beside him, letting him relax and recover his wind at leisure.  While he breakfasted, snatching a mouthful of grass from this side or that of the track which wound through the meadows, I saw two men trudging along together a short distance ahead of me, deep in conversation.  I walked a little faster, curious to know what they were talking about, and just as I drew abreast one of them burst into a loud laugh and said to the other :  ‘Stop, stop!  Not another word!  I can’t bear to hear any more of your absurd and monstrous lies.’


     This was promising.  I said to the story-teller:  ‘Please don’t think me impertinent or inquisitive, sir, but I’m always anxious to improve my education, and few subjects fail to interest me.  If you would kindly go back to the beginning of your story and tell me the whole of it I should be most grateful.  It sounds as if it would help me pleasantly up this next steep hill.’

     The man who had laughed went on : ‘I want no more of that nonsense, do you hear?  You might as well say that magic can make rivers move backwards, freeze the ocean, and paralyze the winds.  Or that the sun can be stopped by magic in mid-course, the moon made to drop a poisonous dew, and the stars charmed from their proper spheres.  Why, you might as well say that day can be magically annihilated and replaced by perpetual night.’

    But I persisted : ‘No, sir, don’t be put off.  Finish your story, please finish it; unless this is asking too much of you.’

Excerpt:  The Golden Ass -- The Story of Aristomenes – Apuleius – trans. Robert Graves – New York, Pocket Books, 1954.


  1. "Why, you might as well say that day can be magically annihilated and replaced by perpetual night."

    I see several connections here with yesterday's post.

    But do the bizarre things win?

  2. No they don't. I'm finally reading this. It's been staring me in the face since childhood. Long day -- a drive to Tuxedo and back. I'm.....uh......knackered. Curtis